Home and Away
As Neutrogena crosses the Equator this evening there will be a certain disparity of feelings between the two skippers, Guillermo Altadill and José Muñoz, a rare situation in a partnership which is clearly working well.
For Muñoz, from Algarrobo, Chile, will look to the stars tonight and feel like he is sailing out of his home hemisphere, whilst Catalan Altadill will be marking his return to his home Northern Hemisphere.
They are very much a complementary duo, a team which is working well, lying in second place. The sailing CV of Altadill extends to many pages, from Olympic coach to maxi multi record attempts. The boat they sail together was built for him in England for the first edition of the Barcelona Wolrd Race. Muñoz started out with no IMOCA 60 experience at all, but has fed off the knowledge and experience of Altadill. And over recent days they have maximised their speeds to reduce their deficit to leaders Cheminées Poujoulat to 870 miles today.
Their gains have been halted by the passage of the Doldrums, slowed to eight to 10kts, but they should slide across the Equator around 2200hrs UTC.
said today he is expecting to round the lonely rock in the small hours of Monday morning. Spurred by the same strong low pressure system they have been with for five or six days, according to co-skipper Conrad Colman there is a 'little bit of a tightrope walk' during their approach. They have to press as hard they dare so that they can outrun a bigger, more active depression which is behind them and chasing hard. But the duo have it foremost in their minds that they need to preserve Spirit of Hungary and themselves for the climb up the Atlantic. Conrad Colman said:
"Spirit of Hungary, despite out best efforts is not at 100 per cent. So we cannot push hard with these strong conditions that we have and so we need to throttle back to preserve the boat. But we cannot slow down too much because there is a new depression forming behind us, and it is due to bring with it another round of 50kts. So if we stay with our routing we should pass the Horn with 20-25kts from the north, and if we are slow we get 50kts. Nandor and I are talking a lot to make sure we are both happy with the level of performance that we are aiming at. But it is tricky to get it right."
For Conrad Colman it will be his second passage of Cape Horn. He rounded on 22nd February 2012 leading the Global Ocean Race, passing 87 miles south of the island, also then being chased by a big gale. And for Nandor Fa it will be his fourth time. He rounded for his first time during a 1985-87 round the world voyage on a 31 foot boat he and his friend and co-skipper had built and finished from a hull. The second time was in 1991-1992 on the BOC solo round the world race and the third was on the 1992-1993 Vendée Globe. Fa recalled today:
" The last time when I was here it was in 1992 and we had 75 kts of wind in the gusts and 60 on average. So that was very tough weather then and it is looking similar this time. My last experience is strong winds, high seas, stormy conditions. And a very tough passage. That is my memory of this area in the past.
At the moment I have no imagination of what will happen at the Horn. I just try to go safely and we will see what it is like when we get there. I think when we pass we will celebrate, somehow."
And meantime in the South Atlantic, due east of Florianopolis, Brazil the Catalan match between We Are Water and One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton sees them still separated by 64 miles, racing in a good vein of SE'ly pressure but they will run into a high pressure ridge which could see them compress closer together.
Conrad Colman (NZL) Spirit of Hungary:"It is very, very cold at the moment, especially because we just had a cold front come through in the depression which we are currently sailing in, and so we went from overcast skies and quite a lot of wind, to beautiful clear skies with more wind. So there is a nice moon and clear skies, but it is freezing cold.
We eat lots just now, there is a lot of soup and tea being drunk so we can fule the inner fire to keep us going. And then there is a lot of drying out of socks and things on the engine cover so we are warm and dry.
Strong winds and big depressions are nothing new for us at the moment. And so it is standard fare of 35-40kts, gusting 50, with big swells which we have had since the middle of the Pacific and so it is a very badly named ocean this one, there is nothing peaceful about it.
But it is fun. I am really enjoying it. It is pretty magical to be down here, it is far from easy. It is nice to be getting closer to the Horn because there we get to turn left and start heading back to Europe and home. But at the same time it is sad as well because I love it down here. I love playing with the Albatross and the big waves. There is something very special about being so far away from land and humanity, just relying on ourselves. It is an experience I am going to miss.
It is a little big of a tightrope walk for us at the moment because Spirit of Hungary, despite out best efforts is not at 100 per cent. So we cannot push hard with these strong conditions that we have and so we need to throttle back to preserve the boat, but we cannot slow down too much because there is a new depression forming behind us, and it is due to bring with it another round of 50kts. So if we stay with our routing we should pass the Horn with 20-25kts from the north, and if we are slow we get 50. Nandor and I are talking a lot to make sure we are both happy with the level of performance that we are aiming at. But it is tricky to get it right.
It is the accumulation of little problems we have had so far.
I have yet to see Cape Horn. The last time I came through I was being chased by a monstrous storm with 60kts in it. So I passed the Horn 80 miles south and went all the way round and so I have not seen a thing yet. It looks like I will be going through in darkness and so I will just have to come back for a third time to see the Horn properly. But regardless it has been and will be magical to pass this famous line of longitude. And I am looking forwards to getting there in a little less than 48 hours.
We still have two small bottles of Cava on board and we will have some of that and scream with joy because it has been a long time coming. Sometimes we have doubted if we would get here. And so Nandor and I are looking forwards to it. We have worked pretty hard at but it is going to feel pretty good when we get there.
Rankings Saturday 14th March 2015 at 1400hrs UTC
1 Cheminées Poujoulat (B Stamm – J Le Cam) at 2310 miles to finish
2 Neutrogena (G Altadill – J Muñoz) + 871 miles to leader
3 GAES Centros Auditivos (A Corbella – G Marin) + 1162 miles to leader
4 We Are Water (B Garcia – W Garcia) + 2577 miles to leader
5 One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton (A Gelabert – D Costa) + 2639 miles to leader
6 Renault Captur (J Riechers – S Audigane) + 3710 miles to leader
7 Spirit of Hungary (N Fa – C Colman) + 5143 miles to leader
ABD : Hugo Boss (A. Thomson - P. Ribes)